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Many Returning Soldiers Struggle with Reunification with Family Members

Many armed forces veterans and their families struggle to re-socialize into relationships, parenting, education and civilian employment – especially after extended exposure to a combat environment. Available data on Iraq an/Afghan Veterans and the documented readjustment problems that have faced past generations of veterans and their families illustrate an alarming problem.

  • Despite the best efforts of the military, VA and numerous other providers, statistics show that many veterans and their families struggle with mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, family and employment problems after leaving the military.

  • Homecoming and subsequent interpersonal functioning is often difficult for the returning soldier, especially if he/she was physically wounded during deployment. Younger families may be particularly less prepared to deal with the added stress of recovery, rehabilitation and/or adjustment to a chronic physical disability (National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2004a).

  • Some families of returning soldiers may be at risk for domestic violence. A report from the Miles Foundation Hotline for Domestic-Violence in the Military notes that calls have jumped from 50 to more than 500 a month since the start of the war in Iraq (Tyre, 2004).

  • The reunion with the children can be a challenge. Their feelings tend to depend on their age and understanding of why the soldier was gone. Babies younger than one may not know the soldier and cry when held. Toddlers may be slow to warm up. Pre-schoolers may feel guilty and scared of the separation. School age children may want a lot of attention. Teen-agers may be moody and may not appear to care.

  • Soldiers reconnecting with family are coming from profound emotional experiences. The spouses also had these experiences, dealing with day-to-day issues by themselves, taking care of the children and gaining independence.

  • Soldiers will want to reassert their role as a member of the family, taking back all the responsibilities they had before, which can lead to tension within the family structure (Logan, 1987).


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